Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Apostle Paul, a Brief Introduction

Being “born in Tarsus, an important city of Cilicia,”[1]would insure that there was Greco-Roman influence in Paul’s life. He was born a Roman citizen, through his father, which:

Assured certain privileges, among them the right to appeal to the imperial court (Acts 25:11, 21; 25:32; 28:19). Paul’s use of Greek confirms his origin as a Hellenistic Jew of the Dispersion, at home in the urban culture of the Greco-Roman world. Paul’s loyalty to his ancestral faith remained a mark of pride.[2]

Paul took great pride in his Jewish heritage.

If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless (Phil 3:4-6).

His family was evidently very pious since he was sent to Jerusalem as a youth to study under Gamaliel (see Acts 22:3). A Jewish education in the holy city of Jerusalem was highly valued.

According to N. T. Wright, the issues that concerned first century Jews were:

What it meant to be part of God’s people, to be loyal to Torah, to maintain Jewish identity in the face of the all-encroaching pagan world, and … to await the coming of God’s kingdom, of the ‘age to come’ promised by the prophets, of Israel’s redemption .[3]

[1] Paul J. Achtemeier, ed., The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1985), 814.

[2] Ibid.

[3] N. T. Wright, Paul In Fresh Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005), 4.

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